- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Ships from: Phoenix, MD
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Ships from: Richmond, TX
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
Posted November 19, 2000
<P>Mimi Reisel Gladstein concludes from the whole cult phenomenon surrounding Ayn Rand's <i>Atlas Shrugged</i> that the novel must have some deep literary merit. But that is not necessarily the case. The cultish enthusiasm says more about the frustrations and repressed desires of adolescent and young adult Americans, of both sexes, than it does about Rand's particular abilities. The novel, frankly, isn't all that good as literature, though it does hold its own when compared with other productions of popular culture with cult followings among the young, like the novels of Robert A. Heinlein, for example. <i>Atlas Shrugged</i> acts more as a kind of literary Rorschach Test than anything else. <P>Gladstein is on target when she discusses the genre-crossing aspects of <i>Atlas Shrugged</i>. Is it dystopian fiction, science fiction, a detective novel, a feminist-flavored romance? All of the above, it seems, though Gladstein doesn't persuade me that Rand consciously borrowed from Arthurian romance as well. The feminist and female-romantic elements of the novel were never emphasized all that much by Rand's 'orthodox' followers, but Gladstein does make the case that Rand pioneered a new kind of strong, independent female character -- Dagny Taggart -- who holds her own in a man's world and doesn't need a man to make her life complete, though finding her ideal lover in John Galt certainly helps. In the 1950's such an idea was radical, but since many fictional female characters these days are 'Xenafied,' Dagny Taggart's prototypical role has been obscured. Perhaps the miniseries version of <i>Atlas Shrugged</i> due out sometime next year will give Rand the credit in this one area she deserves. <P>Still, I found some flaws in Gladstein's exposition of Rand's make-believe world. Gladstein fails to explore <i>Atlas Shrugged's</i> unsubtle family-hating subtext, since all the major characters either lack or are alienated from immediate relatives, as if that were a good thing. Even after Dagny makes an emotional connection with her hapless sister-in-law Cherryl, she shows no emotional response to Cherryl's suicide. Shock, grief and anger towards her brother for driving Cherryl to suicide, would have been more appropriate responses on Dagny's part. The question of Hank Rearden's paternity never comes up, nor whether he and his wastrel brother Philip even share the same father. (If not, that could in itself explain the hostility between the two!) At the end of the novel, the strikers plan to leave their Rocky Mountain stronghold and rebuild an America where young people can look towards the future with hope -- but since the heroes don't have children, and apparently don't plan to, considering the shortage of worthy females for them, you have to wonder where these youngsters are going to come from. (Since Dagny never seems to need contraception, despite having sex with three of the novel's heroes, she must be infertile.) <P>And despite all the rhetoric about the sanctity of property in <i>Atlas Shrugged</i>, it escapes Gladstein that Rand's heroes can bend the rules when it suits them. Dagny and Hank had no right to trespass on the grounds of the ruined 20th Century Motor factory, even if its current legal ownership was thoroughly unresolved, much less the right to remove the remains of Galt's perpetual motion machine from the laboratory. <P>Perhaps the creepiest aspect of all in the novel, which Gladstein seems oblivious to despite her feminist sensibilities, is how John Galt's behavior towards Dagny throughout most of the story resembles love-obsessional stalking. In the real world, a guy in his late 30's who is still a virgin, holds down a menial job on a railroad, and is obsessed with and surveils the railroad's attractive female Vice President (even going around to sabotage the business deals she's trying to put together to keep her company in operation), would be considered potentially threatening. (Call Gavin de Becker!) I donWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.